Theater Review - Ministry of silly walks

Ever watch a rerun or DVD of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and feel like you're just sitting through the so-so bits to get to classics like the Upper Class Twit of the Year? That feeling recurs in Dad's Garage's production of Out of the Trees, an evening of sketches by deceased Python Graham Chapman.

After Dad's Garage staged the world premiere of the playwright's farce O Happy Day in 2000, the Graham Chapman archives gave the theater access to 50 unused sketches, some of them unfinished. Taking about 20, Dad's assembles a frequently funny and affectionate tribute to Monty Python, even though it's not their A-material.

Out of the Trees targets some of the British troupe's favorite subjects, like courtrooms, TV chat shows and little old ladies on park benches. Anne Towns' upbeat lecture on how to give yourself an appendectomy while riding the London underground proves a perfect example of the Pythons' deadpan, hyper-verbal absurdism.

Directed by Sean Daniels, Out of the Trees succeeds best when it brings Chapman's TV-sized satire into the three-dimensions of live theater, like when the players lead the audience in an atheist Christmas carol.

The play's five-actor ensemble frequently parrots the wacky accents and physical mannerisms of the original Pythons, which can be a little distracting. In such roles as a ruminative, middle-aged Genghis Khan, Tim Stoltenberg may be too close a student of Monty Python's style. But he rises above the tendency to impersonate with his sheer sense of fun: At intermission, he goes out to the playhouse's front deck and wrestles a plastic laundry basket while wearing a pink negligee and rabbit ears.

George Faughnan seldom seems like any particular Python but clearly comprehends John Cleese's balance of buttoned-up dignity and berserk abandon. As an inspector at a crime scene, Faughnan celebrates his preposterous deductions with an amusingly modern "boo-yah!" Out of the Trees makes a game attempt to put a fresh spin on the Flying Circus, even though it's not something completely different.

Out of the Trees plays through Oct. 25 at Dad's Garage Theatre, 280 Elizabeth St. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun., Oct. 5, at 5 p.m. $15-$20. 404-523-3141. www.dadsgarage.com.